A commitment to increased investment in STEM education and research on all sides of politics is essential to secure future prosperity, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) warns.
AMSI Director, Professor Tim Brown called for bi-partisan recognition of the economic importance and value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backed by long-term funding and initiatives attached to targets not aspirations.
“STEM capability, particularly mathematics, is essential to our future security and capacity to compete as a global innovator,” AMSI Director Professor Tim Brown said.
Professor Brown said national leadership was needed on STEM education, research training and research-industry engagement, as well as gender equity and diversity.
“There is no room for politics when it comes to our nation’s future prosperity and tackling issues such teacher supply and quality, university mathematics prerequisites, STEM gender equity and industry-university research collaboration,” said Professor Brown.
Despite growing demand for advanced quantitative and analytical skills, a recent AMSI report showed only 9.4 per cent of Year 12 students took higher level mathematics in 2017, the lowest level recorded in more than two decades. Only 6.9 per cent of Year 12 girls 12.2 per cent of boys.
Out-of-field teaching is one of a mix of factors impacting STEM engagement. AMSI revealed that three quarters of Australian students are taught by an out-of-field maths teacher at least once during Years 7 to 10. Worryingly, 35 per cent will have an out-of-field teacher for at least two of these years and 8 per cent for three years. A further paper on the history of this problem with international comparisons and recommendations for the future will be released by AMSI shortly.
While AMSI is pleased to see funding allocated to tackle gender equity, careers awareness and deliver training and resources to boost teacher quality, Professor Brown said current measures were nowhere near enough.
“We need a long-term vision supported by strong funding, including incentives to accelerate adequate mathematical preparation of students for university courses as diverse as commerce, health and engineering.”
As well as increasing supply of mathematics specialists into teaching, long-term investment is needed to support Australia’s PhD workforce to apply their specialist skills to industry innovation challenges.
“Sustained funding to programs such as APR.Intern is critical to create pathways between Australia’s top universities and innovation industry. Powerful linkages that accelerate STEM capability where it is needed the most.”
AMSI is the collaborative enterprise of Australia’s mathematical sciences. Established as an independent platform and advocate for the discipline, the Institute has built a record of national and international achievement as the recognised leader in delivery of services, activities and strategic initiatives across the mathematical pipeline.
Working with key discipline, government and industry partners, AMSI delivers its mission through through the delivery of activities and engagement under its program areas:
Professor Tim Brown, AMSI Director
Media Contact: Laura Watson
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